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My 32-day battle with Covid19 – PS narrates



Agriculture PS Prof Hamadi Boga has come out to narrate his 32-day successful battle against Covid 19.

Boga revealed that he has successfully battled Covid19 in a public letter on his Facebook page.

He went into detail on how the symptoms started to manifest and his ultimate decision to got a test which came back positive after two days.

After a few days isolating at home, the PS was rushed to an isolation centre after he feared that his situation was escalating.

The former university don said his treatment at the isolation centre included regular sips of dawa (ginger, lemon, honey), paracetamol, cough syrup (Bro Zedex), glemont L (antihistamine) daily tablet, and vitamin C tablets.

He was discharged after two days to proceed with home based treatment where he eventually tested negative.

Here is the PS’s narration of events in his own words:

Dear Family, Friends, Neighbors, fellow Kenyans.

Here I am. Still alive. I am doing okay, largely. I have finished self-isolating at home after 32 days since I first experienced COVID 19 symptoms. I did the retest for COVID-19 and thank God came out negative. The test procedure looks scarier than it really feels? Most people would cringe at the thought of taking that test. For me the nose swab was easier than the throat swab. The technician who took my swab said that the throat swab is the riskier one even for the one swabbing. One could easily puke. Here are my lessons and observations out of this COVID-19 experience.

Pre Test

1. It began with serious chills that go all the way to the bone marrow. I know it was July but that is not what I am talking about. These chills were abnormal, way way deeper than the usual July experience.

2. Then I had the aches…all over….especially muscles (calves, thigh and arms).

3. Then the cough that was not productive and that persists….and a tightness or numbness around the chest at the back and at the front. I had no flu. Just this cough that irritated and persisted.

4. Nausea and intense urge to puke every time I coughed. This was scary.

5. The headaches and fever I was primed to expect were no show. Actually in all temperature checks at entrances to key buildings, I was recorded to have a temperature of 35 to 36.5oC. Only once did I have a low-grade fever (37.5 oC) when tested at the hospital.

6. I could not smell anything. Nothing. Not food. Not perfume. Nothing.

7. The taste buds went out of the window. I was basically eating grass.

8. The area around the kidneys or abdomen pained. It went on and off.

9. I was not dizzy but I would say…I was not sure I was really seeing properly. So I would take off my glasses just to be sure that the mist was not interfering with my vision.

10. I was also very tired and would sleep and sleep…of course interrupted by this irritating cough and the fear of the unknown that lay ahead.

11. My voice was hoarse. Most of my friends who called were concerned my voice was strange.

12. I got breathless just from talking in a zoom meeting.

The Test

On day four I started thinking, should I be tested just to rule COVID-19 out or in. I called my physician and picked a referral letter to go to the tents at Nairobi hospital, where sampling took 5 minutes but administrative processes to pay the KES.10,000.00 fee took 2 hours. Something between my Insurance Company and the billing at the Nairobi hospital just does not work.

As a scientist, my mind wanders and I am asking myself…and why should the simple PCR test cost KES10,000.00? You see, the Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR) is an old technology that has been here since 1982 when Harry Mullis won the Nobel prize for chemistry for inventing PCR. I think the laboratories have found a cash cow cashing in on our ignorance, fear and desperation. Because of these high costs, testing will be the limiting factor in our fight against COVID-19.

When I told my wife that I had gone for the test, she was terrified that the men and women in PPEs would come and cart the family away. How could I do that? I replied that it would be good as we would know the reality and get early treatment if we had all been exposed. I sense there is a lot of fear out there for testing and my wife was no exception. If we do not address the fear component most people will keep hiding and infecting others. Most people who have the symptoms just avoid hospital, hoping to wait things out. Others go into hiding. This disease can make you die in hiding if it causes an acute infection and you are not one of those lucky asymptomatic victims.

After the Test

I waited for the results for 48h…and they came by a phone call. You are COVID 19 positive. Self-isolate for 14 days. Separate yourself from your family. Let the family come for testing tomorrow. They thought I was being weird. If there are any issues please call us. Any questions? Confusion.

I was sure the lady across the phone was doing her best, but she really was not sure what to tell me or what to do beyond announcing the positive results. I called my physician for further details. We remained in regular touch throughout the isolation to clarify situation and review scenarios.

Luckily my family members were all negative. Immediately I had started feeling sick, I had instructed them to avoid getting too close to me and I started wearing a mask in the house. They thought I was being weird until the verdict came. They were there to take care of me as I self-isolated. Thank God almighty for that.

Decision to Check into an Isolation Centre

So I began the self-isolation; day 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. I am largely struggling with a cough and a desire to vomit. I also feel giddy especially when prostrating in prayers. I asked my physician to check me in. I was worried about oxygen levels.

It was also not clear to me if, in the event that things really got serious how I would get myself anywhere at night with the curfew. I was sure if an ambulance showed up at my apartment, chaos would break loose. My neighbors would probably shout Boga must go. We feared. I decided to use private means to get me to the isolation centre. I am not sure how the average families get themselves into these isolations centres when the going gets tough. I checked into an isolation centre.

My blood pressure was high (maybe due to anxiety), the blood oxygen levels were manageable (94%) and the cough was pressing on. I had a low grade fever. I learnt with trepidation that my insurance or any insurance for that matter does not cover COVID 19 isolation so I had to pay a deposit of KES.100,000.00 for admission which I did hurriedly via Mpesa. When push comes to shove, you do not think twice about such earthly things. Survival becomes the primary goal.

After 48 hours of monitoring and….

1. Regular sips of Dawa (ginger, lemon, honey)

2. Paracetamol every 8 h

3. Cough syrup (Bro Zedex) every 8 h

4. Glemont L (antihistamine) daily tablet

5. vitamin C tablet 100 mg per day

This is all I was given at the Isolation Centre. It was not for treatment of COVID 19, more for management of symptoms. I get amazed at this: the actual management is cheap when the symptoms are mild. I guess that is why, for most cases, management can be done at home. Most of the items can be obtained over the counter at minimal costs.

I realize that the testing and the ceremonies around isolation, PPES and quarantine is what will hamper our ability to manage this beast. I was checked out after 2 days to continue with home quarantine. I carried my medicines with me. It was looking good. My voice had improved. I was looking more energetic. I greeted people with vigor. There is light after darkness.

Lessons learnt and the opportunities to win the war

I have learnt some lessons along the way and done some reflections.

1. This beast is now in our communities. The social/physical distancing is the only tool available for the mass market. We can all afford this. The poor people cannot afford the testing or the quarantine and the ceremonies that go with that. Let us make social distancing a religion. It should come from bottom up. It should be everyone’s responsibility to understand and manage the disease for ourselves and our communities, whatever we do and wherever we live. We have to change and tame our instincts to socialize casually. We need to activate our caring genes so that we project care by preventing the spread of COVID 19 and we show our humanity that way. Should this be the single most important thing that we should anchor any behavior change communication? Food for thought

2. I believe testing should be for people really in distress and after key symptoms are confirmed positive. Those who have come into contact with positive persons and are not showing any infection should self-isolate and self-monitor with proper guidance and regular reports submitted to a health worker or central database so that their situation can be tracked centrally and data analyzed by epidemiologists and infectious disease experts. Not collecting information limits us from mining data from positive cases that would be helpful in managing the pandemic as it evolves. Testing everyone is expensive and the staff and facilities are overstretched and the more information we mine from 1 positive case the better for designing our management system. The PCR kits are expensive here in Kenya. We will go broke testing 47 million Kenyans.

3. Efforts should go into educating families on how to self-isolate and how to support those in self-isolation. This requires education and discipline. Inahitaji ujirani mwema and reawakening the spirit of being each other’s keeper. This thing will be defeated bottom up. Formal systems will be overrun and everyone has to view themselves as part of the war against COVID 19. In the end change in community behavior is what will help us manage this Public Health challenge. Our communication at all levels should aim to make that mother, father, youth and that community/religious leader take ownership of the COVID-19 challenge. We cannot afford to have misleading messages laced with conspiracy theories.

I have read many snide remarks from talented critics with a gift for writing who can better use their talents to understand and build community resilience, instead they are spreading lies, misin, formation, distortion and cynicism. To what end? There are many conspiracy theories being peddled out there. All of them do not matter at this moment. Let us use our hands, words, deeds and imagination to stop the spread of COVID 19 and create safe communities. The spread is within the communities. The interventions must be at the community level. The youth in the maskanis, blogs and WhatsApp groups are consumed by skepticism and conspiracy theories. We should scale and frame our communication at this phase of the pandemic and trickle it down to the community influencers so that we can address the negative narrative.

Now thinking as a scientist, there is to accelerate investment in scientific capabilities at three levels

a) People who understand viruses in KEMRI and in the Universities (scientists and technicians). Each region should have a serious Laboratory of CDC level. No need for new buildings. Just upgrading those which are there, and ensuring that they have the right people, equipment and reagents;

b) Let us incentivize synthetic biology startups to set up small biotech companies to manufacture the primers and reagents required for diagnostics and research. The COVID-19 Africa challenge is just about to unravel. The logistics of shipping reagents from abroad will just work against us. We should use the crisis to also emerge as a Biotech manufacturing hub.

Most University laboratories are now closed. MSc and PhD students have suspended their work….WHY? This is the time to unleash all the science we have in this great nation to this war. This is the time to get scientists back into the laboratories to help in surveillance, diagnosis, modeling and scenario building that will get the country ahead of this beast. How else do we grow if not through our pain? As we test, trace, isolate and report, let there also emerge some serious scientific work and discourse in the background to contribute to the body of knowledge required to manage this beast. No one will do our science for us but ourselves.

Today is day 32. Yesterday I had some courage to venture back into the office. Some symptoms still linger, but they are manageable. Sometimes my throat dries up and the voice gets hoarse again, I break into a sweat thinking maybe the beast is still around. Or is it my imagination playing tricks on me. Wahenga walisema, “ukiumwa na nyoka, utakimbia hata kambaa”. I tested negative on 26th of July. As I venture out, I know I have to continue being…more cautious to avoid re-infection, have less physical meetings, hand sanitize properly, avoid touching may face and eyes less (very hard) and making sure that I wear my mask properly and people around me wear masks. Please do the same so that you can protect yourself, your family and your communities. The cheese has moved. Let us adapt. Let us all pray for God to protect all of us.

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Kenyans in US grapple with Covid-19 woes



His conspicuous Kenyan name, Kariuki, is what gave him out and attracted the attention of a handful of compatriots working at the Philadelphia international airport.

Recently, staff at the airport woke up to news that scores of homeless people had been rounded up by the airport police and the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Among them was Kariuki (first name withheld for privacy reasons), a Days later, the Nation located Mr Kariuki in a shelter for homeless people on Island Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Mr Kariuki, originally from Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley, came to the US as an undergrad student at Temple university in Philadelphia five years ago.

“My mom, a hawker in Nakuru, raised the initial $10,000 for my tuition and that could only last me a semester and a half. Fortunately, I got a part-time job at the library in college but I still had to work at a local grocery store in the evenings and play drums for my church on Sundays where I was paid $100 every Sunday. Things were okay until Covid-19,” said Mr Kariuki.

A combination of photos of counsellor and clinical consultant Abel Oriri, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio; Geoffrey Chepkwony, who died in August in Texas, US; and David Bulindah, a clinical counsellor based in Seattle, Washington.

When, towards the end of March, the state of Pennsylvania shut down everything including education institutions, hotels and shops — and restricted movement, his world came tumbling down.

“My roommate, in whose name our apartment was registered cancelled the lease and returned to Memphis, Tennessee to his family. For almost three months, I lived in my car. It was hard to find food. The nights were cold. I started developing regular panic attacks that left me feeling like I was going crazy!” he said.

So bad were the panic attacks that police found him at the busy intersection between Island Avenue and Lindberg shouting at motorists and trying to stop them.

“I cannot remember doing this,” he says, although he describes himself at the time as “stressed, depressed and contemplating suicide”.

Psychiatric help

One day, he woke up in some psychiatric facility in West Chester and was told he had been there for three weeks.

“I was totally confused, and heavily sedated. I had nowhere to go but at least I knew I had to leave that place,” he says

Mr Kariuki finally went to the airport because one of his classmates was working at an eatery that had remained open. His friend would occasionally give him a fresh meal and, at least at the airport, he’d enjoy heating during spring and cold air in summer. That was where the authorities found him and other homeless people who they took to shelters.

Mr Kariuki’s story is unfortunately now just one of the many familiar stories of Kenyans living abroad — made worse by the pandemic.

“It’s of course true to say that Covid-19 has led to a significant increase and demand for mental health intervention due to anxiety and depression. In fact, recent research indicates that more than 53 per cent of adults in the US have reported that their mental health had negatively been impacted directly,” said Kenyan-born counsellor and clinical consultant, Abel Oriri based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Recently, Kenyans in Houston, Texas, were shocked by the death of Geoffrey Chepkwony, who is thought to have committed suicide after his body was found on the streets. He was said to have been struggling with mental health problems. The Kenyan community in the US, led by those in Texas, has been raising the money needed to ship his remains home following a passionate appeal from his mother in Kenya.

Another high-profile case is that of the first Kenyan-born National Football League player, Daniel Adongo, who later fell from grace. His worrying state was depicted in a video clip widely shared online. His family later said they had sought help for him. Coronavirus seems to have exacerbated social and health issues like homelessness, depression and domestic violence, among others.

Support groups

Mr Oriri, who is also a pastor, says most of his clients now describe feelings of depression, anxiety, worry, stress, loneliness, poor appetite, suicidal thoughts and isolation.

“Many report difficulties sleeping, eating, increased alcohol consumption and substance use. Worsening chronic conditions from worry, depression, and stress over Covid-19.

The anger management and domestic violence groups that I have been providing for more than 20 years have surged one hundred percent in enrollment since the pandemic began,” he said in a recent interview.

David Bulindah, a Kenyan Pastoral and Clinical Counsellor based in Seattle, Washington, said the usually structured life of Kenyans in the US was recently disrupted without warning by the coronavirus.

“Most people could not leave their job and or could not go to their second job. For someone who had been enjoying consistent income to suddenly lose all that, stress, anxiety and depression thus kicks in”. he said.

Mr. Bulindah says that the Kenyan community will only deal with these issues if it opens up and discusses mental health and homelessness candidly without pre-judging those affected.

“People should know that it’s okay to lose a job and it’s okay to experience mental health problems. Those affected should not isolate themselves rather, reach out for help,” he said.


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KNH strike claims its first victim



A man died at the parking lot of Kenya’s largest referral hospital where a strike by 5,000 workers paralysed operations on Monday.

The boda boda rider was taken to the hospital by his friends following an accident.

But the management of the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) insisted the patient was in a critical state and that his death was not due to negligence.

Dr Stanley Kamau, a board member at KNH, said the hospital and staff were not to blame for the death.

The strike disrupted services at the hospital and left patients unattended. The striking employees are protesting a delay to effect a pay rise totaling Sh601 million.

Some families were forced to move unattended patients from the hospital as members of the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheiha), the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) commenced their strike.

Workers’ demands

The workers are demanding implementation of resolutions from the State Corporation Advisory Committee, which upgraded the hospital’s parastatal status from 3C to 7A in 2012.

Following the reclassification, all KNH staff were to benefit from enhanced pay but it has never been effected.

Some workers went on strike late last year, prompting a return-to-work formula with management to end the boycott.

But the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has said the formula is not a basis for demanding a review of remuneration, arguing it’s not fiscally sustainable and will distort the salary structure in the sector.

SRC has asked the referral to retain the current pay structure as it awaits a job evaluation that will inform the remuneration review cycle for 2021/22 to 2014/25.

KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako said members were not interested in the job evaluation and wanted their salaries adjusted as the matter had been approved by Parliament.

“We want SRC to write to the CEO giving authorisation for payment because we know the money is there. We will not go back to work until we get the money,” Mr Panyako stated.

SRC the ‘obstacle’

KMPDU’s acting Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachonda claims SRC is the only obstacle and it is frustrating health workers in the public sector.

The hospital’s chief executive officer in a letter to SRC yesterday said KNH will ensure the Sh601 million budgeted for in the 2020/21 financial year is paid in October.

In a letter dated February 12, 2013, to then Finance Principal Secretary, KNH detailed the breakdown of the salaries from the CEO to the lowest Job Group K16/17.

The lowest basic salary for the hospital CEO was set at Sh400,000, while the maximum had been capped at Sh560,000. House allowance was to be between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000.

While the CEO’s basic salary was settled at Sh400,000, that of the lowest worker was set at Sh17, 535.


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WATCH LIVE: Covid-19 Conference in Kenya



President Uhuru Kenyatta and other officials are addressing the nation on measures taken to contain the Covid-19 pandemic amid hope for the official declaration of a flattening curve.

Their addresses, which follow a virtual conference on Kenya’s status, come after six months of economic paralysis caused by restrictions instituted to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

President Kenyatta is expected to further ease measures Kenya took after reporting its first case on March 13. Key among them were a nationwide curfew.

As of Sunday, Kenya had recorded 38,115 declared cases, including 24,621 recoveries and 691 deaths. The country has tested 540,308 samples for the disease so far.

More to follow

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